Excerpt: Kevin Hart's I Can't Make This Up

June, 2017
Kevin  Hart

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Comedian and actor Kevin Hart is doing pretty well for himself. He's selling out sports stadiums with his popular stand-up shows; he's starring in movies, including Ride Along and The Secret Life of Pets; he dethroned Jerry Seinfeld as the world's highest-paid comedian (for the curious: Forbes reported he made $87.5 million between June 2015 and June 2016); and in 2015, TIME magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people.

Hart's now adding "author" to his growing list of accomplishments with I Can't Make This Up: Life Lessons. He's sharing laugh-out-loud stories from his life, including this exclusive excerpt below.

We'd say that one of the hardest-working guys in show business was never one to rest on his laurels, but now we know the truth: Here's how he completely messed up his college admission chances back in high school…



INSIDE THE MIND OF A SUPER-GENIUS

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That was my plan, because everyone knows that repeating this pattern of answers will hack any multiple-choice test.

This test happened to be the SAT.

It was pretty important. It was going to determine my future, so I didn't want to take any chances. That's why I didn't study. I was going to ace this test with cleverness: stay one step ahead, take the shortcut to success. Hard work was for basketball. In academics, less was best.

Besides, I had more important things to do: The SAT was happening at eleven in the morning, and my friends from swim team were going to Six Flags amusement park at noon. It was a three-hour test, so I had to somehow finish it in less than an hour if I wanted to ride the Batman roller coaster.

I wasn't concerned with college anyway. Turning eighteen, graduating, and being free—those were the things that concerned me. I could have gone to UPenn on a scholarship—my mom was now a computer analyst with her own office there—but I told her I wasn't interested.

"I ain't going there. I'll be eighteen. I can do what I want, like you said!"

"It's an Ivy League school. You can go there and get hired for any job you want afterward."

"I get it, but I don't even know if college is for me, Mom."

The last thing I wanted was four more years of being under Mom's supervision at home and at school.

"So what are you gonna do, Kev?"

"Something else."

"Like what?"

"I'll figure it out on my own."

I didn't have the heart to say it, but in that very conversation I had fulfilled my childhood dream: to be able to finally tell Mom "I'm grown; I ain't doing that." Those six words were the sum total of my ambition. If there was anything she wanted me to do after graduation, it wasn't going to happen, simply because she wanted me to do it.

So I sat in the testing room of George Washington High School in Philadelphia with my trusty #2 pencil and I whipped through that test. I only opened the booklet for show.

Twenty minutes after the test began, I stood up, handed in my answer sheet, and walked out of that room, to the amazement of my classmates.

In fact, I didn't just walk. I strutted. I felt good about it. At Six Flags, I bragged to my friends about how good I did on that test. They were serious about getting into good colleges and had already taken the SAT, so they were excited for me.

When I returned home, my mom asked me how I did. "Great!" I told her. "I know it."

"That's good," she said, and meant it.

It turned out that I nailed it: 790 verbal and 780 math. I was going to Harvard!

Actually, that's not what happened. If you believe that, then you probably have a gambling problem. My odds of doing well on that test with that stupid system were abysmal.

I got something like 400 in verbal and 350 in math. That's not much better than what someone gets for just putting their name on the paper.

My mom was disgusted with me. "You said you got this, but you didn't even try!" she scolded. "You know how hard I work to get you the best life and the best opportunities. And you're taking them for granted! I'm disappointed in you. You're better than this."

Her reaction hurt me more than the test results. She'd sacrificed so much for me, and I'd repaid her with apathy, cockiness, and ingratitude. There was no way to think or talk or joke myself out of this. I'd fucked up.

As the months passed, I looked around and so many kids my age, especially on the swim team, were celebrating their success. They'd gotten combined scores as high as 1500. They were stoked that their top-choice colleges would be getting these test results.

Me: What do you mean your colleges are getting these scores?

Teammates: The colleges we applied to—they get the scores directly.

Me: You applied to colleges?

Teammates: Yeah, months ago. Didn't you apply anywhere?

Me: Shit, I didn't know the deadline already passed. You think I shoulda done it?

Teammates: Don't worry about it.

Me: Why, can't I late apply or something?

Teammates: No, but it doesn't matter. With your scores, no one's gonna accept you anyway.

As graduation drew closer, and my teammates started getting college acceptance letters, I felt lower and lower. When family members asked what my plan was for after graduation, I couldn't answer them. My entire plan had been just to be free of my mother's rules.

I had no plans beyond that. I hadn't sent out a single college application. I bullshitted my way through the SAT. I'd never really considered the future.

Now I didn't have one.

The lesson that I drew from this at the time was that I should have tried harder. I should have taken school more seriously; I should have had a plan like everyone else. I still feel that way. But there's an additional lesson that I get from it now: It's never too late to start caring.

My future was out there. It was just waiting for me to find it. And the challenge was not to give up on myself just because it seemed like everyone else was pulling ahead of me—and leaving me further and further behind in the months that followed. That's the test that each of us faces in life:

Can you fail and still be strong?

Can you not fit in and still accept yourself?

Can you lose everything and still keep searching?

Can you be in the dark and still believe in the light?

Because no matter how low you go and how lost you feel, there is always tomorrow. And tomorrow just may be the day when you get lifted up and find your way.

There is just one thing that tomorrow demands of you to make this happen: that you never stop believing in your power to create a better day. This way, when your best possible future comes looking for you—almost always at a time and in a place you least expect it—you will be able to recognize its face and respond to its call.

I know this to be true, because although I never saw it coming—even when it came—it's exactly what happened to me.

Read more of our exclusive author interviews, excerpts, and recommendations on our Voice page.




Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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message 1: by Iroquois (new)

Iroquois Really enjoyed his interview on Colbert a couple nights ago, and now this story is just as good. Just got his book today and cant wait to start reading :D


message 2: by Rejoice (new)

Rejoice Denhere Awesome! So inspiring.


message 3: by Andrea (new)

Andrea Can't wait to read this!


♛fierybookwormwitchⓥ Ace-I need to read this Book! 😁


message 5: by Issayas (new)

Issayas Newatu Amazing School life i like it I learn a lot from you


message 6: by Veronicah (new)

Veronicah Awesome n so inspiring


message 7: by Minh (new)

Minh Trang woa woa, i very like you
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